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Nasdaq remains undecided on bitcoin futures despite prior reports, CEO says


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Nasdaq remains undecided on bitcoin futures despite prior reports, CEO says

Nasdaq Inc. is still examining the potential risks and opportunities that come with cryptocurrency even as two of its exchange operator peers plan to launch bitcoin futures contracts in the coming weeks.

"We haven't made any decisions yet," Nasdaq President and CEO Adena Friedman said at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference. "We're talking to our customers. We have been doing a pretty extensive client consultation."

A week prior to those remarks, numerous reports emerged that Nasdaq was planning a bitcoin futures product in partnership with Cantor Fitzgerald LP, mirroring plans from Cboe Global Markets Inc. and CME Group Inc. Friedman said the company is working to better understand the cryptocurrency and potential offerings.

Investors and analysts have been peppering exchange executives with questions about whether they plan to pursue bitcoin offerings after Chicago-based Cboe and CME revealed that their bitcoin futures products will go live on Dec. 10 and Dec. 18, respectively.

Those products will mark some of the first contracts based on the cryptocurrency that will be available for trading on a regulated market. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission decided in early December to permit the exchanges to move forward with their plans after months of discussions. The CFTC also permitted a new contract for bitcoin binary options on Cantor Fitzgerald's Cantor Exchange.

Bitcoin futures' upcoming introduction to the market has amplified long-held concerns over bitcoin's largely unregulated underlying markets. In a statement, the CFTC said it expects the futures exchanges to monitor for certain illegal trading practices.

But Nasdaq apparently still wants to better understand the ramifications of launching a bitcoin-based product. A few of the company's still-pending inquiries revolve around the sustainability of a bitcoin product, the impact regulation could play in bitcoin markets and any effects a bitcoin product could have on Nasdaq's brand and reputation, Friedman said.

Friedman's questions on bitcoin futures echoed comments a day earlier at the same conference from Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman and CEO of New York Stock Exchange-owner Intercontinental Exchange Inc.

"We may be stupid for not being first on that," Sprecher said. "But we didn't think it was obvious to rush out a product and be first and settle against on a lot of exchanges that are not particularly transparent."